There are two layers to the wine business that are easily visible to the consumer—the winery itself, as embodied by the bottle of wine you hold in your hands, and the person who sold it to you. There are a couple of layers in between that you don't see, mostly because you don't really need to—importers (or brokers) and wholesalers. As a result, we rarely get to talk about these out-of-the-spotlight folks. But one you might like to meet is Steve Ward, who is well known among Baltimore gastronomes.
Ward enjoyed many years in Baltimore as the proprietor of Vespa, the hip, affordable trattoria on South Charles Street that closed more than a year ago. He has returned to Charm City after a stint in California as an importer of wines from Argentina. That's fine by us, because Ward has a great palate and because Argentina has great wines. His company, Oasis Wines, distributes its wines in Maryland through Bacchus Importers Ltd. There's been a lot of anticipation in the marketplace for these wines, a testament to the good will Ward built up over the years with fellow restaurateurs and retailers.
Let's taste a few.
To close out the last vestiges of warm weather, it's hard to top AVE Torrontes 2007 ($11) from the Cafayate region of Argentina. It brims with bright peachy aromas, which are reprised on the palate. There's a hint of chalk that is characteristic of this grape, and it's all bound together with a thrilling acidity that is an ideal companion to food.
Fans of rustic red wine must seek out Antonietti Malbec 2004 ($12). Intensity is the byword for this wine, with its meaty nose of black fruit and its flavors of blackberry, cherry, and crushed blueberries. Given how wild the wine could be, it is, in fact, mercifully fruit-forward, and doesn't get too tannic on the finish.
A truly great bottle of wine by any measure is La Madrid Malbec Gran Reserva 2005 ($20). This is one of the most charmingly aromatic reds I have had in a while. Red fruit, violets, lavender, pomegranate—and all those aromas—show up as flavors, along with a hint of smoky herbs. Texture is this wine's strong suit, too, rolling over the tongue with a lush softness that is tucked into the corners by tannins. Trust me. You'll really like it.